Our positive running story this time is about Aaron Saft. Aaron has been an attendee and a expert speaker panelist at the US Trail Running Conference. He owns a running store, FootRx, in Asheville, NC, and is Race Director for series of races centered around the store. Aaron is an amazing trail runner, has been highly successful in growing his trail running community, has a humble heart, and is one of those folks that would do just about anything for you. Aaron recently ran the Eastern States 100, and we caught up with him soon after the race, and here is the result.
Can you share a quick run down on your running history to this point?
I started running in 1990 in Middle School. I was an All-American in the Indoor 2-Mile in High School. I ran at NC State in College where I took All-ACC honors in Cross Country, Indoor Mile & 3k, & Outdoor Steeplechase. I ran my marathon PR (2:27) at the 2005 Richmond Marathon. In 2007 I won the USAT&F Trail Marathon Championships in 2:30. I started my Ultra Running Career in 2008 with a 50k in 3:25. My first 100-miler was last year at Grindstone where I finished 2nd place in 20:22.
You recently ran the Eastern states 100 mile race. You had some energy issues ahead of the race and had contemplated bagging the race. Do you recall what is was that decided you to go ahead and run?
It’s very hard to bag a race when you’ve put so much into the training for an event. I wasn’t injured and my kids were really looking forward to the race, which only gave me reasons to run. I had a heart to heart with my wife and decided to go for it. Worse case scenario would be dropping out.
You broke down at the aid station at mile 45 at Eastern States. You said this was the first time you had ever cried during a race. Your daughter Ambrin said “Daddy, I want to see you cross the finish line like you did in Canada (Canadian Death Race last year).” In that moment you went from down and out, to I’m going to finish come hell or high water. Are you aware now of how her words made a difference to you?
Nothing affects me more than how I look in my children’s eyes. I’ve made life changes due to my kids and their perceptions. My son said to me once, “Dad, I really look up to athletes that don’t drink alcohol.” What type of athlete role model would I be in my sons eyes if I continued to drink? So I don’t drink alcohol any more. So yes, I am very aware of how her words made a difference. The image of Ambrin looking up at me and telling me those words echoed in my mind throughout the remainder of the race.
To get you through the rest of that race, the aid stations became lifelines to you. You described it as you had a soul tank that needed filling, and the volunteers at the aid stations met that need. What’s the best thing a volunteer can do to fill other runner’s soul tanks?
Smile and exude positivity! Its infectious. Offering bacon helps too!
At 10 miles or so to go you allowed yourself to visualize the finish line and finishing with your kids. Then at the finish they ran in with you just the way you had envisioned! That must have been so cool for you, and for them – how much do you use visualization to create race situations the way you want them to be?
When I am training I always envision multiple scenarios (best & worst cases). Come race day, I have a back up ideas if things are heading South. I always envision my kids and the energy boost they give me, which always gives me something to push towards in the race itself. Lastly, I always envision coming across the finish line strong and happy, because that’s the way one should always finish due to the accomplishment.
You own FootRx, a running store in Asheville, NC. The store has become a hub for a growing running group, and the race series that you have created. How important do you think specialty running stores are for runners, and what can runners do to make sure that specialty running stores like your survive?
Run shops are a resource for ALL runners. We’re here to answer questions on all aspects of running not just sell products. We try to nourish and help the running community grow by creating events and opportunities for runners that help make running fun. As for helping shops like mine survive, be a return customer. What I mean by that is continue to buy from those that help support your community. It’s easy to go online and buy shoes that can ship to you in 2-days, but your money just went outside the community. Keep your dollars local and shop small businesses.
Can you tell us something that is uniquely Aaron that no one would know from looking at you?
I played Pro Disc Golf for a bit. Never turned out any great results, but it was cool to make it to that level.
You recently ran Pitchell as a training run prepping for Eastern States. You said in your blog post that “Running enriches our lives in so many ways. Some times we have to take a step back, look at it from the outside, slow down a moment and take away some of the simpler lessons it provides.” What are the top three simple lessons that running has given to your life?
Appreciate every step you take. It’s a blessing to be out there!
Running is basic. One foot in front of the other. So should be your life. Don’t add unneeded complications.
Learn to love life and those around you like you love running.
What are your goals for the rest of 2017, both running and personally?
I hope to run Pinhoti 100-Miler in Nov. and PR. Personally, I turn 40 this year, so I’m really looking forward to joining the Master’s Division on October 19th!
We wish Aaron every success with his store, his family and his running, and look forward to seeing him back in Estes Park at the US Trail Running Conference in October!
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